Month: December 2018

December 11 1917-

GM- FBF – Our story today is a prelude to what is happening and will intensify more in the summer of 1919. The “bloody summer” as it will be called in many urban areas of the United States, As WWI draws to a close in America compared to the black troops in France are getting a different experience. Today’s story will be no different than East . Louis, IL. and other cities. Enjoy!

Remember – “They told us to put on the Uniform and we can show are support to this Country for the war effort, it was a lie for many of us” – Unknown Black soldier

Today in our History – On Dec. 11, 1917, 13 black soldiers were hanged for their part in a little-remembered and deadly race riot. They were condemned to death after a trial many called unjust.

Now, at a moment when the continuing impact of racism in policing and criminal justice is a topic of fraught public conversation throughout the United States, relatives on both sides of that Houston riot are uniting to preserve the memory of the event and to find some justice for those executed soldiers.

It began in July 1917, following America declaring war on Germany and entering World War I. The 3rd Battalion of the 24th United States Infantry, a predominantly black unit, was sent to guard the construction of Camp Logan — part of the new war effort — on the edge of Houston.

From the beginning, the soldiers encountered Jim Crow law and racism from police and civilians; workers constructing the camp resented their presence.

“They sent these soldiers into the most hostile environment imaginable,” says Charles Anderson, a relative of Sgt. William Nesbit, one of the hanged soldiers. “The soldiers should never have been sent there — they should have remained at their base in New Mexico until the order came to go to France.” 
Tensions mounted until around noon on Aug. 23, when the Houston police arrested a black soldier for allegedly interfering in the arrest of a black woman, triggering a rapid escalation of events leading to false rumors reaching Camp Logan by evening that a soldier had been killed and that a white mob was approaching the camp.

Soldiers grabbed rifles and headed into downtown Houston, against the orders of their superior officers. The rampage lasted two hours and involved gun battles between the soldiers and the police and local residents, with bayonets being used, leaving 16 white locals dead, including five policemen. Four black soldiers also died.

After tempers finally cooled, the soldiers returned to camp. The next day martial law was declared in Houston, and the following day the unit was dispatched back to New Mexico before three courts-martial were convened to try 118 indicted soldiers.

Sixty-four men were tried in San Antonio, charged with disobeying orders, mutiny, murder and aggravated assault, during the first court-martial that began Nov. 1 — the largest murder trial in US military history —resulting in the 13 death sentences.

“They were represented by just one lawyer and didn’t even have a chance to appeal,” says Angela Holder, great-niece of Cpl. Jesse Moore, one of the hanged soldiers, and a history professor at Houston Community College. “They were denied due process guaranteed by the Constitution.”

Not one Houstonian among the prosecution witnesses could identify a soldier as having fired shots that killed someone, while routinely referring to the accused using the n-word. Seven soldiers agreed to testify against the others in exchange for clemency.

On Nov. 28, the 13 men were found guilty and sentenced to death. Two weeks later, without an appeal, they were hanged on Dec. 11.

Shortly after the hasty executions, and in the face of condemnation from both military and civilian figures, the US Army made changes to its Uniform Code of Military Justice to prevent executions without a meaningful appeal. These changes remain in place to this day.

It was too late for the soldiers hanged from a scaffold beside the Salado Creek in San Antonio. But some in Houston say it’s not too late for some kind of justice. During the Obama presidency, soldiers’ relatives lobbied — unsuccessfully — for posthumous pardons. The petitions have now been sent to the Trump White House.

Holder was more successful in 2017 at lobbying the Veterans Association for gravestones in a Houston cemetery for two soldiers killed during the riot. And along with other local activists, she also helped organize the Aug. 23 rededication of a Texas Historical Commission marker at the former site of Camp Logan to mark the riot’s 100th anniversary.

The ceremony was attended by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, who said the history of the event is “calling us today to be better,” and “for good people of all backgrounds to speak against hate and stand united.”

And it wasn’t the only 100th anniversary to help focus the minds of those familiar with the riot on the past, present and future.

“The centennial of the US entry into World War I has likely brought a heightened awareness of such events and emboldened people to address a sensitive topic,” says Lila Rakoczy, program coordinator of military sites and oral history programs at the Texas Historical Commission.

Also, recent national police controversies have struck unfortunate parallels with events surrounding the riot.
“This was a problem created by community policing in a hostile environment,” says Paul Matthews, founder of Houston’s Buffalo Soldiers National Museum, which examines the role of African American soldiers during US military history. “The soldiers were standing up for America when it wasn’t standing up for them.”

A similar perspective is shared by some relatives of those who suffered because of the rioting soldiers.
“The soldiers were 100 percent wrong for rioting, but I don’t blame them,” says Jules James, great-nephew of Capt. Bartlett James, one of the battalion’s white officers who managed to restrain a larger number of soldiers from leaving camp but died under mysterious circumstances before the court-martial, notes James, who has researched the history. “The unit had 60 years of excellent service, was full of experienced veterans but couldn’t endure seven weeks of Houston.”

Current attempts to deal with this racial tragedy brought Sandra Hajtman, great-granddaughter of one of the policemen killed, together with Holder and Anderson when they met to retrace the Houston streets taken by the rioting soldiers.
“The men did not have a fair trial,” Hajtman says. “I have no doubt about the likelihood the men executed had nothing to do with the deaths. You have to look at the whole story, why it happened, and learn from it — both sides bear responsibility.”

Relatives continue waiting for a response to the pardon petitions. In the meantime, preserving the memory of the Houston riot and its aftermath has itself served as a kind of justice for the relatives of the soldiers and police who died because of it.

‘’Sandra Hajtman’s ancestor, who was killed, was a good policeman and would bring abandoned black children to his home where his wife would nurse them,” Anderson says. “No one should have lost their life that night had the right decisions been made. It was a very sad tragedy that did not need to happen.”

In November, the largest court-martial in U.S. military history convened at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio to try sixty-three soldiers from the Third Battalion. Thirteen of the convicted men were executed by hanging on December 11.

The following year, two additional courts-martial were held and another sixteen sentenced to hang. Responding to pressure from black leaders, President Woodrow Wilson commuted the death sentences of ten of the condemned men. In total, nearly sixty soldiers received life imprisonment for their roles in the affair. The Houston Mutiny anticipated the “Red Summer” riots of 1919 in which many African American servicemen retaliated against white mistreatment. On the other hand because of the Mutiny, the Twenty-fourth Infantry Regiment was not allowed by the U.S War Department to go to France to fight in World War I.

Houston marked an anniversary in December that some in the city would perhaps rather forget — and others demand be recalled more clearly. Research more about this and other events leading up to the “Red Summer” and share with your babies. Make it a champion day!

December 10 1982- Pamela McAllister

GM – FBF – Today’s story takes me back to the Badger state of Wisconsin, where I spent 10 years getting a BA and MFA. Also I started my own business MaddLadd Productions during the beginning of the Disco era and worked on radio stations in Southeast Wisconsin to promote my business and was program director to a few of the most distinguished discotheques in the area including Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Club in Lake Geneva, WI. My master’s degree was in Radio & Television Broadcasting which included some journalism classes in which I had an opportunity to meet today’s story headliner. Enjoy!

Remember – “We as black people should be qualified to run any newspaper in America”. – Pam McAllister Johnson

Today in our History – December 10, 1982 – Pamela McAllister Johnson became the first Black woman publisher of a mainstream paper, the Ithaca Journal.

Pam McAllister Johnson, American newspaper publisher, consultant. Member National Association Black Journalists, National Association Education in Journalism, New York State Publications Association, American Newspaper Publications assosiation, New York Association Black Journalists, Ithaca Business and Professional Women.; Club: Zonta.

Johnson, Pam McAllister was born on April 14, 1945 in McAlester, Oklahoma, United States. Daughter of Elmer Reuben and Esther Queen (Crump) McAllister.

Bachelor of Science, University Wisconsin, 1967, Master of Science, 1971, Doctor of Philosophy, 1977. Association professor journalism University of Wisconsin Madison,1971-1978. Associate professor Norfolk State University (Virginia), 1979-1981.

General executive Gannett Company, Inc., Bridgewater, New Jersey, since 1981. Assistant to public The Ithaca Journal, New York, 1981, president, public, since 1981. Director First Bank Ithaca.

Board of directors St. Bonaventure U., Olean, New York, Station WCNY-television, Syracuse, New York. Member of advisory board National Youth Communication, Syracuse, 1983.

Associate professor journalism University Wisconsin, Madison, 1971—1978. Associate professor Norfolk State University, Virginia, 1979—1981. General executive Gannett Company, Inc., Bridgewater, New Jersey, since 1981.

Assistant to public The Ithaca Journal, New York, 1981, president, public, 1981.

Director First Bank Ithaca. Board directors St. Bonaventure University, Olean, New York, Station WCNY-television, Syracuse. Member advisory board National Youth Communication, 1983.

Member of Ithaca Business and Professional Women, New York Association Black Journalists, married Newspaper Publications Association, New York State Publications Association, National Association Education in Journalism, National Association Black Journalists, Zonta.

Married Donald Nathanial Johnson, June 8, 1968. Children: Jason, Dawn.
Father: Elmer Reuben McAllister, Mother: Esther Queen (Crump) McAllister – Husband: Donald Nathanial Johnson, two children: Dawn Johnson and Jason Johnson. Research more about black women in journalism and share with your babies. Make it a champion day!

December 9 1892- Clevland Leigh

GM – FBF – I always enjoy telling any story about my beloved New Jersey, born in Camden, raised in Trenton and owned property in Trenton, Willingboro and Edgewater Park. My family members still reside in Mercer, Burlington, Camden and Atlantic Counties. Today’s story has a link in Willingboro to the famed track family of the Lewis’s. We know of Carl and Sister Carol who passed on Trenton Central High School for the ‘boro. Did you know that their mother Evelyn Lawler Lewis, attended Tuskegee on a track-and-field scholarship, and competed for the U.S. at the 1951 Pan American Games? Injuries prevented her participation in the 1952 Olympics; at that time she was one of the top three hurdlers in the world. She taught school, coached sports, developed physical education programs, and co-founded the Willingboro Track Club (Burlington, NJ) in 1969. Today’s story is about her Track Coach at Tuskegee. Enjoy!

Remember – “Over my career I taught toughness and determination, if I had the resources that the other schools we competed against had, we would have been hard to beat for decades” – Coach Cleveland Leigh Abbott

Today in our History – December 9, 1892 – Cleveland Leigh Abbott was born in Yankton, South Dakota. He is most remembered for his coaching career at Tuskegee Institute (now University) in Alabama.

Abbott was the son of Elbert and Mollie Brown Abbott who moved to South Dakota from Alabama in 1890. He graduated from Watertown High School, Watertown, South Dakota, in 1912 and then from the South Dakota State University at Brookings in 1916. Abbott earned 16 varsity athletic awards during his collegiate career.

Students residing in Abbott Hall, one of the new residential halls dotting the SDSU campus, should be schooled on the significance of the building’s namesake.

The class of 1916 featured Cleveland Leigh Abbott. Better known as “Cleve,” his impact at South Dakota State was felt long after he left the College on the Hill.

He was a four-sport star, lettering in track, football, basketball, and baseball. He went on to become a legendary coach and was inducted to several halls of fame, including SDSU. However, his most notable achievement was his advancement of women’s sports, particularly African-Americans.

Abbott’s destiny was put in motion a few months later when SDSU President Ellwood Perisho attended a meeting in New York City on the advancement of African-Americans. After the conference, he met Tuskegee Institute President Booker T. Washington on the train.

Washington informed Perisho that he wanted to start a sports program if he was to hold the interest of young folks attending Tuskegee and attract greater numbers to the school.

When quizzed if he had any young men who might qualify as a sports director, Perisho told him about Abbott, but cautioned that he was only a freshman. Washington replied that if Abbott worked and studied hard, he could come to Tuskegee as its sports director when he graduated from SDSU.

When Perisho returned to Brookings, he contacted Abbott about Washington’s proposal, and in response, “Cleve” committed himself to excellence on the field and in the classroom.

The 172-pound Abbott earned all-state football honors four straight years, including one year being named all-northwestern center. He was the starting center on the basketball team and was team captain as a senior. In track, he ran the anchor leg on the relay team.

Abbott’s future was in doubt as a junior when he learned that Washington had died. However, during his senior year, Washington’s secretary discovered a memo of agreement for Abbott’s employment and enclosed a contract for him to come to Tuskegee.
In 1916 Cleveland Abbott married Jessie Harriet Scott (1897–1982). They had one daughter, Jessie Ellen, who in 1943 became the first coach of the women’s track team at Tennessee State University in Nashville.
Arriving at the famous Alabama school, Abbott was assigned to teach various phases of the dairy business to agricultural students and serve as an assistant coach.

His college duties were postponed, though, when the United States entered World War I. As a lieutenant, he was the regimental intelligence officer attached to the 336th Infantry Company of the 92nd Division. He saw action at the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in 1918. When the armistice was declared, it was Abbott who carried the message of cease-fire from his colonel to the troops. Abbott was later a commissioned officer in the Army Reserve. (The US Army Reserve Center at Tuskegee is now named the Cleveland Leigh Abbott Center.)
After the war, Abbott joined the faculty of Kansas Vocational School in Topeka, where he coached and was commandant of cadets.

In 1923 Cleveland Abbott was hired as an agricultural chemist and athletic director at Tuskegee Institute, a job that had been personally offered to him by Booker T. Washington in 1913 on the condition that he successfully earn his B.A. degree. As athletic director Abbott was expected to coach the Institute’s football team. During Abbott’s 32-year career, the Tuskegee team had a 202–95–27 record including six undefeated seasons; positions he held until his death in 1955.
In 32 seasons, Abbott’s gridiron record was 203-95-15. His teams claimed 12 conference titles and six mythical National Black College championships. In 1954, he was the first African-American college football coach to rack up 200 victories.

Abbott also started the women’s track and field program at Tuskegee in 1937. The team was undefeated from 1937 to 1942. Six of his athletes competed on U.S. Olympic track teams, among the notable female athletes he coached were Alice Coachman, Mildred McDaniel, and Nell Jackson. Coachman was the first African-American woman to win a gold medal, taking the high jump title at the 1948 Olympic Games in London. McDaniel repeated the feat in 1956 with a world-record jump of five feet, nine inches at the Helsinki Olympics.

From 1935 to 1955, Abbott’s outdoor track and field teams won 14 national titles, including eight consecutive. His squads captured 21 international AAU track and field crowns. Individually, Tuskegee athletes brought home 49 indoor and outdoor titles with six making Olympic track and field teams.

Abbott served on the women’s committee of the old National AAU (USA Track and Field predecessor) and twice was on the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Committee. He is also a member of the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, and is one of the founders of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Basketball Tournament.

Abbott is credited with being one of the pioneer coaches of women’s track and field for more than four decades. He is said to have developed the program that opened track and field to women in the United States.

Abbott was inducted into the South Dakota State University Hall of Fame in 1968, the Tuskegee University Hall of Fame in 1975, the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Hall of Fame in 1992, the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 1995, and the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1996. Also in 1996, in recognition of his outstanding contributions to athletics, the Tuskegee University Football Stadium were renamed the Cleveland Leigh Abbott Memorial Alumni Stadium.

Another female track and field standout was Evelyn Lawler Lewis, mother of Olympic track great Carl Lewis. A 1949 Tuskegee graduate, Lewis named her second son, Cleveland Abbott, after him. After college, she went on to compete in the 1951 Pan American Games in Argentina, and like “Cleve,” she also turned to coaching.

Lewis says Abbott was well ahead of his time, from coaching to teaching and training techniques. What’s more, she says, Abbott inspired his athletes.

“He made us believe we could be something,” she explains. “His main theme—what he always talked about—was ‘you can do it.’ You can do what you want. You can be as good as you want. He wasn’t a driving-type of coach—he was a motivator.”
Cleveland Leigh Abbott died at the Veterans Hospital in Tuskegee on April 14, 1955 and was buried in the Tuskegee University Campus Cemetery at Tuskegee, Alabama. Research more about this great American and share with your babies. Make it a champion day!

December 8 2006- Cynthia Ann Mckinney

GM – FBF – Today’s story centers around a black woman who did her best to tell her story in the U.S. Congress, every day I ride pass by a stretch of highway in her honor. Enjoy!

Remember – Ever since I came to Congress in 1992, there are those who have been trying to silence my voice. I’ve been told to ‘sit down and shut up’ over and over again. Well, I won’t sit down and I won’t shut up until the full and unvarnished truth is placed before the American people. Cynthia McKinney

Today in our History – On December 8, 2006, in her last major act as a member of Congress, Cynthia McKinney introduced legislation to Impeach President George Bush because of his conduct of the Iraq War.

Cynthia Ann McKinney was born on March 17, 1955 in Atlanta, Georgia to parents Billy McKinney, who was a police officer and to a mother, Leola Christion McKinney, who was a nurse. Her father was a political activist who challenged his employer, the Atlanta Police Department, for its practice of racial discrimination. This desire to use activism in the cause of racial justice was inherited by Cynthia McKinney who initiated her first petition against racism while still in school. In 1971 she challenged a teacher at the Catholic institution for using racist language. Meanwhile, her father, Billy McKinney was elected to the Georgia State Legislature in 1973 as a Democrat.

After completing St. Joseph’s High School in Atlanta in 1973, McKinney in 1978 received a degree in international relations from the University of Southern California. This degree would serve her well in the future as became increasingly concerned about the role and impact of U.S. foreign around the world. McKinney then entered the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. There she met and Jamaican politician Coy Grandison and returned to Jamaica with him.

McKinney’s political career began in 1986 when her father, Billy McKinney persuaded his 31-year-old daughter become a write-in campaign for another legislative seat. Without any campaigning because she lived in Jamaica at the time, and little help from other Democrats, Cynthia McKinney still managed to get 20% of the total vote. Two years later she decided to mount an all-out campaign for the seat. Elected in 1988 at the age of 33, McKinney was one of the youngest members of the state legislature. She and her father became the first father-daughter pair in the Georgia legislature.

McKinney soon became controversial in the Georgia legislature for opposing the Gulf War and for challenging the chamber’s dress code by wearing slacks instead of dresses. She also joined Georgia civil rights leaders in a lawsuit to increase the number of black judges appointed in the state.

In 1992, McKinney ran for Georgia’s Fourth Congressional District seat. She won and remained in the U.S. House of Representatives for a decade. While in Congress McKinney was appointed to the Armed Services Committee and the International Relations Committee where she served as Ranking Member on its International Operations and Human Rights Subcommittee. A member of the Congressional Black Caucus, she also led the Women’s Caucus Task Force on Children, Youth and Families.
While agreeing with most of the Clinton administrations policies, she challenged the Administration on the North American Free Trade Agreement. She also called for the end of U.S. arms sales to nations with a history of human rights violations. She also continued to be a strong voice for racial justice issues. She opposed welfare reform in 1996 because she felt it would intensify the conditions facing impoverished black women and children. She called for election reform after the 2000 presidential election partly because of what she termed the disfranchisement of many Florida African American voters.

In 2002, McKinney was defeated in the Democratic Primary race by DeKalb County Judge Denise Majette. An estimated 40,000 Republicans voted in the Democratic Primary to defeat McKinney, angry over a controversial interview she had given earlier that year at a Berkeley, California radio station where she alleged that the Bush Administration had prior knowledge about the 9-11 attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center.

In 2004, McKinney returned to Congress where she became most noted for her criticism of the Bush Administration for its lack of support for Hurricane Katrina victims. In 2006 McKinney lost in the Democratic Primary to DeKalb County attorney Hank Johnson. On December 8, 2006, in her last major act as a member of Congress, McKinney introduced legislation to Impeach President George Bush because of his conduct of the Iraq War. Research more about this great American and share with your babies. Make it a champion day!

December 7 1941- Carole Simpson

GM – FBF – Today’s story is about a Black female who was the first of her kind in television both locally in Chicago, IL and nationally on ABC news. After the federal government dropped the requirements for broadcasting in 1977 a lot of people who didn’t understand journalism and still don’t have taken a profession which I loved as a radio air personality who read the news to a Infotainment audience, Journalism as I understood it is dead. All we have now are people giving their opinion and that is not journalism. This lady was one of the last journalists on air, Enjoy!

Remember – “ I use to be proud that I did my body of work in the way it was meant to be and I still Instill this with my students to this day” – Carole Simpson

Today in our History – December 7, 1941 Carole Simpson was born.

Award-winning journalist Carole Simpson was the first black woman television reporter to broadcast radio news in Chicago. She is also the first African American woman to anchor a major television network evening newscast.

Veteran Journalist Carole Simpson, who has spent her three decades as an anchor in the network, has accumulated a lot of fan followings who seem to be mesmerized by her life behind the camera.

The American journalist Carole Estelle Simpson was born on 7 December 1941 in Chicago, Illinois. Born in Chicago, She was the daughter of Lytle Ray and Doretha Viola Simpson. She is currently 76 years of age, and the birth sign is Sagittarius.

In 1958, Carole graduated attended the University of Illinois, and after completing her graduation, she transferred to the University of Michigan where she graduated in 1962 with her B.A. degree in journalism.

Carole was the only black journalism major in her graduating class, and while pursuing her B.A. degree, she received her first media experience by working at a community newspaper during her summer breaks.

Carole, who stands at the tall height, started her first job on the radio at WCFL in Chicago, Illinois, and was later hired at WBBM.

After that, she moved to television at Chicago’s WMAQ and onto NBC News in the year 1975, becoming the first African-American woman to anchor a major network newscast.
She also became the first woman of color to moderate a presidential debate when she moderated the debate held between George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Ross Perot, at Richmond, Virginia, in 1992. The same year she won the Journalist of the Year Award from the National Association of Black Journalists.

Later, she joined ABC News in the year 1982 and was an anchor for the weekend edition of World News Tonight from 1988 to 2003. Though she ended her career at ABC News but had a contract with the network until 2005.

After her retirement from ABC News in 2006, she was hired as Leader in Residence at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts in the year 2007. In 2010, her autobiography, Newslady, was published by AuthorHouse.

Her time in the network has not just rewarded her with name and fame but has also been successful financially. Being the anchor of the ABC News channel, she must have earned a huge amount of salary from her career and has a net worth estimated to be in millions.

Veteran Journalist Carole is married to her husband James Edward Marshall on 3 September 1966. However, neither Carole nor James has revealed the information regarding her wedding reception. There is also no information regarding how they met and how their relationship flourished before marriage.

However, it has come to the limelight that, the couple shares two children together, a daughter named Mallika JoyMarshall, and a son Adam Marshall. Her daughter Mallika is now a physician and her son, Adam is a junior partner in a talent firm in Los Angeles.

The couple, who currently resides in Boston, seems to be happy with their two children and three grandbabies as a family who live in suburban Wellesley. Research more about this great American and share with your babies. Make it a champion day!

december 6 1879

GM – FBF – Our story today is about the life of a radio air personality, The very first one to own a radio station. Some of you may remember that I also was on the air waves in Milwaukee, WI, Chicago, IL., Cleveland and Philadelphia. Enjoy!

Remember – ” Music was in my blood and I have always dreamed of owning a station one day” – Jesse B, Blayton SR.

Today in our History – Jesse B. Blayton Sr. was born.

Jesse B. Blayton, Sr., was a pioneer African American radio station entrepreneur. Blayton founded WERD-AM in Atlanta, Georgia on October 3, 1949 making him the first African American to own and operate a radio station in the United States.

Jesse Blayton was born in Fallis, Oklahoma, on December 6, 1879. He graduated from the University of Chicago (Illinois) in 1922 and then moved to Atlanta, Georgia to establish a private practice as an accountant. Blayton passed the Georgia accounting examination in 1928, becoming the state’s first black Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and only the fourth African American nationwide to hold the certification.

Blayton also taught accounting at Atlanta University where he encouraged younger blacks to enter the profession. He had little success. Blayton later recalled that much of his recruiting difficulty came from the students’ knowledge that no white-owned accounting firms would hire them and his, the only black-owned firm in the South, was small and had few openings. A decade after Blayton became a CPA there were still only seven other blacks in the U.S. who had achieved that status. 
In 1949 Blayton made history when he bought the 1,000 watt Atlanta radio station WERD for $50,000. Blayton changed the program format and directed toward the local African American audience. WERD was a pioneer in programming what he called “Negro appeal” music, playing early versions of rhythm and blues music that could not be found elsewhere on the air. Although WDIA, established in Memphis, Tennessee in 1948, played music oriented for a black audience, WERD was the only black-owned station to do so at that time. By 1954 there were approximately 200 black-oriented radio stations but fewer than a dozen were African American-owned.

Blayton hired his son, Jesse Blayton, Jr., as the station’s first program director. The younger Blayton hired four black announcers, Joe Howard, Roosevelt Johnson, Jimmy Winnington, and veteran “Jockey” Jack Gibson who by the early 1950s had became one of Atlanta’s most popular radio personalities. Gibson read daily news that was relevant to the black community and often conducted on-air interviews of Atlanta University professors and other prominent black leaders to comment on the leading stories of the day.

WERD also diverged from other local radio stations in the early 1950s by publicizing the emerging civil rights movement. The station’s location in the Prince Hall Masonic Lodge Building, which also housed the headquarters of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), no doubt gave it a particular advantage. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., President of SCLC, often walked upstairs to the WERD studio to make public statements about the organization’s activities. Research more about blacks in the radio world and share with your babies. Make it a champion day!

December 5 1784- Phillis Wheatly

GM – FBF – There are some stories in our History that need to be shared as much as possible. Today’s story is one of them. I was blessed to take some of my students from Trenton and Ewing to Houston, Texas and actually did one of our awards ceremonies honoring the late U.S. Congressman Mickey Leland who was from 5th ward of Houston. He was a graduate of Phillis Wheatley High School where we met the Leland family, Governor Ann Richards and the late U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Jordan. The students of Phillis Wheatley High School and our Trenton students did two community events – one serving meals at a soup kitchen and the second was clothing drive at Texas Southern University. We were amazed of how many of Phillis Wheatley’s writings that the students were exposed too. Enjoy!

Remember – “In every human Breast, God has implanted a Principle, which we call Love of Freedom; it is impatient of Oppression, and pants for Deliverance.” ― Phillis Wheatley

Today in our History – December 5, 1784 – Phillis Wheatley died.

Phillis Wheatley was the first African American poet to publish a book. She was born in 1753, in West Africa and brought to New England, enslaved, in 1761, where she was sold to John Wheatley of Boston. The Wheatleys took a great interest in Phillis’s education and precocity; Wheatley learned to read and write English by the age of nine, and she became familiar with Latin, Greek, the Bible, and selected classics at an early age. She began writing poetry at thirteen, modeling her work on the English poets of the time, particularly John Milton, Thomas Gray, and Alexander Pope. Her poem “On the Death of the Rev. Mr. George Whitefield” was published as a broadside in cities such as Boston, New York, and Philadelphia and garnered Wheatley national acclaim. This poem was also printed in London. Over the next few years, she would print a number of broadsides elegizing prominent English and colonial leaders.

Wheatley’s doctor suggested that a trip might improve her delicate health, so in 1771 she accompanied Nathaniel Wheatley to London. She was well received in London and wrote to a friend of the “unexpected and unmerited civility and complaisance with which I was treated by all.” In 1773, thirty-nine of her poems were published in London as Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral. The book includes many elegies as well as poems on Christian themes; it also includes poems dealing with race, such as the often-anthologized “On Being Brought from Africa to America.” She returned to America in 1773.

After Mr. and Mrs. Wheatley died, Phillis was left to support herself as a seamstress and poet. It is unclear precisely when Wheatley was freed from slavery, although scholars suggest it occurred between 1774 and 1778. In 1776, Wheatley wrote a letter and poem in support of George Washington; he replied with an invitation to visit him in Cambridge, stating that he would be “happy to see a person so favored by the muses.” In 1778, she married John Peters, who kept a grocery store. They had three children together, all of whom died young.

Because of the war and the poor economy, Wheatley experienced difficulty publishing her poems. She solicited subscribers for a new volume that would include thirty-three new poems and thirteen letters, but was unable to raise the funds. Phillis Wheatley, who had once been internationally celebrated, died alone in a boarding house on December 5, 1784. She was thirty-one years old. Many of the poems for her proposed second volume disappeared and have never been recovered. Research more about this great American and share with your babies. Make it a champion day!

December 4 1942-

GM – FBF – Our story today centers around World War II and how black women changed the face of training for back women. Enjoy!

Remember – “ We were soldiers just like the men but it was heard for us just like our black brothers”

Today in our History – December 4, 1942 – 32nd and 33rd WAACS Headquarters Companies (World War II) – the army post was the largest black military post in the country.

Organized in the fall of 1942, Iowa, the all-black Thirty-Second and Thirty-third Women’s Auxiliary Army Companies would become the first contingent of WAACS assigned to a military installation in the United States during World War II. Composed of nearly 200 auxiliaries and seven officers, company members completed six weeks of intensive training in Iowa before reporting to Fort Huachuca, Arizona, on December 4, 1942. At the time, the army post was the largest black military post in the country. There, the units were assigned to the Ninth Service Command and the post headquarters, respectively.

Under the command of the first group of Fort Des Moines’s graduating class of black commissioned officers—Irma Jackson Cayton, Vera Ann Harrison, Frances Alexander, Violet Askins, Natalie Donaldson, Mary Kearney, and Corrie Sherard—auxiliaries ably performed clerical and administrative work as stenographers, typists, telephone switchboard operators, clerks, messengers, reception ists, and motor pool drivers and mechanics. The positions held by the WAACs and the duties they performed cohered with the racial and gendered employment policies developed by senior Army leaders and Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps officials, relieving the men of the U.S. Ninety-third Infantry Division also stationed at the military outpost to undergo extensive field training in the Arizona desert.

Upon their arrival, auxiliaries of the Thirty-second and Thirty-third companies quickly enhanced the training programs at Fort Huachuca. The successful performances of Auxiliaries Priscilla Taylor and Reba Caldwell while working with a Ninety-third Infantry division convoy during its desert training exercises garnered admiration and praise from the post commander, Edwin Hardy, and division personnel. And WAAC recreational officers Geraldine Bright and Mercedes Jordan created All WAAC Musical Revues, Glee Clubs, and USO comedies, providing precious moments of levity for the uniformed servicewomen and men training at the desert installation. Yet the formal presence of the WAAC company servicewomen and officers and the duties they performed while stationed at the military post were subject to intense scrutiny grounded in prevailing sexual stereotypes and innuendo at nearly every turn.

The Thirty-Second and Thirty-Third Post Headquarters Companies continued to serve at Fort Huachuca, Arizona before being disbanded in late 1945. However, many of its senior officers were subsequently reassigned to other military installations throughout the United States or deployed for overseas duty with the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion in Europe later in the war. Research more about Black Woman in the services and share with your babies. Make it a champion day!

December 3 1866- John Swett Rock

GM – FBF – We are proud to be back in New Jersey for today’s story. He was a public school graduate, teacher and later became a dentist and taught blacks the practice of dentistry. He was abolitionist and became a lawyer and helped assemble the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment during the American War between the States. He became the first African American lawyer to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. Enjoy!

Remember – “I Will Sink or Swim with My Race” – John Swett Rock

Today in our History – John Swett Rock died in Boston on December 3, 1866.

John Swett Rock was born to free black parents in Salem, New Jersey in 1825. He attended public schools in New Jersey until he was 19 and then worked as a teacher between 1844 and 1848. During this period Rock began his medical studies with two white doctors. Although he was initially denied entry, Rock was finally accepted into the American Medical College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He graduated in 1852 with a medical degree. While in medical school Rock practiced dentistry and taught classes at a night school for African Americans. In 1851 he received a silver medal for the creation of an improved variety of artificial teeth and another for a prize essay on temperance.

At the age of 27, Rock, a teacher, doctor and dentist, moved to Boston, Massachusetts in 1852 to open a medical and dental office. He was commissioned by the Vigilance Committee, an organization of abolitionists, to treat fugitive slaves’ medical needs. During this period Dr. Rock increasingly identified with the abolitionist movement and soon became a prominent speaker for that cause. While he called on the United States government to end slavery, he also urged educated African Americans to use their talents and resources to assist their community.

Following his own advice, Rock studied law and in 1861 became one of the first African Americans to be admitted to the Massachusetts Bar before the Civil War. Soon afterwards Massachusetts Governor John Andrew appointed Rock Justice of the Peace for Boston and Suffolk County. In 1863 Rock helped assemble the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, the first officially-recognized African American unit in the Union Army during the Civil War. Rock would later campaign for equal pay for these and other black soldiers.

In 1865, with support from Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner, Rock became the first African American lawyer to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Previously, Rock’s health had deteriorated in the late 1850s. He underwent several surgeries and was forced to halt his medical practice. Believing he would receive more advanced care overseas, Rock made plans to sail to France in 1858. Rock, however, was denied a passport by U.S. Secretary of State Lewis Cass who, citing the 1857 Dred Scott Decision, claimed Federal passports were evidence of citizenship and since African Americans we not citizens, Rock could not be issued a passport.

Outraged abolitionist supporters in Boston persuaded the Massachusetts Legislature to demand the Secretary of State grant Rock a passport. The State Department relented and Rock sailed to France. French surgeons recommended that Rock give up his speaking engagements and his medical practice. Rock agreed but continued his abolitionist activities. Nonetheless his health continued to worsen.

On April 9, 1866 the Civil Rights Act of 1866 was passed which enforced the 13th Amendment. Rock enjoyed this honor for less than a year. He became ill with the common cold that weakened his already failing health, and limited his ability to commute efficiently. On December 3, 1866, John S. Rock died in his mother’s home in Boston of tuberculosis at the age of 41. He was laid to rest in Everett’s Woodlawn Cemetery, and was buried with full Masonic honors. His admittance into the Supreme Court is recorded on his tombstone. Research more about this great American and share with your babies. Make it a champion day!

December 2 2008- Odetta Holmes

GM – FBF – Today’s Story is about a Folk singer whose music has been called the “soundtrack of the Civil Rights Movement.” Her work inspired musicians from Bob Dylan to Joan Baez.

An elementary teacher noticed her singing voice and encouraged her mother to get her formal training. In 1956 released her first solo album, in 1999, President Bill Clinton awarded her the National Medal of Arts.

Remember – “If your neighbor looks at you like they don’t enjoy the key you’re singing in, look right back, bless them, and keep on singing.” – Odetta Holmes

Today in our History – December 2, 2008 – Odetta Holmes died.

Odetta Holmes, later known simply as Odetta, was born on December 31, 1930, in Birmingham, Alabama. Before she even learned how to play an instrument, Odetta banged on the family piano in hopes of making music—until her family members got headaches and told her to stop. Growing up in the Deep South during the Great Depression, Odetta fell in love with the work songs she heard people singing to ease the pain of the times. “They were liberation songs,” she later recalled. “You’re walking down life’s road, society’s foot is on your throat, every which way you turn you can’t get from under that foot. And you reach a fork in the road and you can either lie down and die or insist upon your life … those people who made up the songs were the ones who insisted upon life.”

Odetta’s father, Reuben Holmes, died when Odetta was a child. In 1937 she and her mother, Flora Sanders, moved across the country to Los Angeles. It was on the train to California that Odetta had her first significant experience with racism. “We were on the train when, at one point, a conductor came back and said that all the colored people had to move out of this car and into another one,” she remembered. “That was my first big wound.”

Although Odetta loved singing, she never considered whether she had any particular vocal talent until one of her grammar school teachers heard her voice. The teacher insisted to Odetta’s mother that she sign her up for classical training. In junior high, after several years of voice coaching, she landed a spot in a prestigious signing group called the Madrigal Singers. When Odetta graduated from Belmont High School in Los Angeles, she continued on to Los Angeles City College to study music. She later insisted, however, that her real education came from outside the classroom.

“School taught me how to count and taught me how to put a sentence together,” she acknowledged. “But as far as the human spirit goes, I learned through folk music.” And as far as her musical development went, Odetta said her formal training was “a nice exercise, but it had nothing to do with my life.
“Soundtrack of the Civil Rights Movement’

In 1950, after graduating from college with a degree in music, Odetta landed a role in the chorus of a traveling production of Finian’s Rainbow. She fell in love with folk music when, after a show in San Francisco, she went to a Bohemian coffee shop and experienced a late-night folk music session. “That night I heard hours and hours of songs that really touched where I live,” she said. “I borrowed a guitar and learned three chords, and started to sing at parties.” Later that year, she left the theater company and took a job singing at a San Francisco folk club.

In 1953, she moved to New York City and soon became a fixture at Manhattan’s famed Blue Angel nightclub. “As I did those songs, I could work on my hate and fury without being antisocial,” she said. “Through those songs, I learned things about the history of black people in this country that the historians in school had not been willing to tell us about or had lied about.”

She recorded her first solo album, Odetta Sings Ballads and Blues, in 1956, and it became an instant classic in American folk music. Bob Dylan later cited that album as the record that first turned him on to folk music, and Time magazine raved about “the meticulous care with which she tried to recreate the feeling of her folk songs.” Odetta quickly followed with two more highly acclaimed folk albums: At the Gate of Horn (1957) and My Eyes Have Seen(1959). In 1960, Odetta delivered a famed concert at Carnegie Hall and released a live recording of the performance.

The 1960s, however, were Odetta’s most prolific years. During that decade, she lent her powerful voice to the cause of black equality—so often so that her music has frequently been called the “soundtrack of the Civil Rights Movement.” She performed at political rallies, demonstrations and benefits. In 1963, during the March on Washington, Odetta gave the most iconic performance of her life: Singing from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial after an introduction by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Odetta also recorded more than a dozen albums during the 1960s, most notably Odetta and the Blues, One Grain of Sand, It’s a Mighty Worldand Odetta Sings Dylan.

Odetta’s popularity waned after the 1960s, and she recorded only several more albums over the remaining four decades of her life. Her most prominent later works include Movin’ It On(1987), Blues Everywhere I Go (1999) and Looking for a Home (2001). One of the greatest American folk singers of all time, Odetta has been cited as a prominent influence by such legendary musicians as Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Janis Joplin. President Bill Clinton presented her with a National Medal of Arts in 1999.

In 2004, she was made a Kennedy Center honoree and in 2005, the Library of Congress awarded her its Living Legend Award. Her highly acclaimed final album, a live recording performed when she was 74 years old, was entitled Gonna Let It Shine (2005). Her music inspired a generation of civil rights activists who helped tear down the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow to build a more equal and just United States of America.

In her later years, after the popularity of folk music had declined, Odetta made it her mission to share its potency with a new generation of youth. “The folk repertoire is our inheritance. Don’t have to like it, but we need to hear it,” she said. “I love getting to schools and telling kids there’s something else out there. It’s from their forebears, and it’s an alternative to what they hear on the radio. As long as I am performing, I will be pointing out that heritage that is ours.”

Odetta continued performing right up until almost the day of her death on December 2, 2008, at the age of 77. She had dreamed of performing at the inauguration of President Barack Obama, but tragically passed away just weeks before he took office. Research more about this great American Treasure and share with your babies. Make it a champion day!